As broadcasters sometimes we are guilty of re-hashing points that may have already stood out to the fans taking in our banter. As you may have guessed by the title of this blog, I intend to bring up obvious points about the Marlies first round sweep of the Rochester Americans. The difference is, this time I am giving you advanced notice and it is very worthwhile to take a look back at how Toronto moved through the conference quarter finals in historical fashion.
The Marlies proved that the regular season trend of scoring big goals in tight hockey games was not a fluke. Of the eleven goals total output for the series, five were recorded in the 3rd period. Jerry D’Amigo stole the show with a pair of back to back game winning 3rd period goals through the first two games of the series. Nazem Kadri’s tally to increase the Toronto lead to 3-0 in the 3rd period of game three was equally important and certainly impressive. Although the club is likely hoping not to rely on late goals that factor into game outcomes in round 2, the fact that Toronto has time and time again proven they can push past nerves to produce winning moments should provide unquestioned confidence if the game is on the line.
Finding the dirty area in the offensive zone in front of the goal, driving hard to the crease without the puck, forging a path to the net using the slot…characteristics of hard working goals produced by Toronto (at least one a game) in round 1. The Marlies showed they are not afraid to pay the price for the chance at winning. Over 50% of their round 1 goals were developed from the hash marks down in the offensive zone. Often scoring goals in the post season does not come about through the pretty play or the perfectly planned one timer from the top of the circle, rather the kind D’amigo showed off in game one, Deschmps in game two or Kadri in game three. While the famous line “they don’t ask how, they just ask how many” may hold true in several hockey instances, a better question posed in the playoffs may be “how did they get that many?” Toronto can answer hard work and fearless play. This type of habit may make the difference of who wins and loses the next round.
‘D’ Zone Toughness
Dallas Eakins constant pursuit for stingy play at both ends of the ice payed off immensely in round 1. The Marlies forwards did a great job playing two way hockey and Toronto d-men (most notably Fraser and Holzer) upped the level of physicality when the puck was down low in their defensive zone. It is this type of play that can spark fear into the heart of the opponent when a puck battle is up for grabs. You go into the corners or find a spot within a stick’s length of the net and you will get hit…hard. Through no coincidence 5 of the Americans top 10 scorers through the regular season were left without as much as a goal beside their names when the series came to a close. Paul Szczechura 21-25=46/Derek Whitmore 28-16=44/Mark Voakes 8-26=34/Colin Stuart 13-19=32/ Travis Turnbull 12-15=27 : combined total points in series vs Toronto> 1A. If Toronto can again patrol their own d-zone with the same brash behavior in round 2, consider it a big factor towards a possible series win.
Spread Out Offence
Although seven of Toronto’s eleven round 1 goals were scored between D’amigo (5) and Zigomanis (2), the Marlies had eleven different players factor into the make up of total goals produced. That total includes nine of twelve forwards contributing, spread out over four lines. The Marlies shutdown pairing of Holzer and Fraser also put up a pair of assists each. While their leading goal scorer and leading point producing defenceman from the regular season have yet to grace the scoresheet, this type of offensive output will be needed to go deep into the playoffs. Round 2 is the best of 7 and the team on the other side have proven able to put the puck in the net, too.
As always, thanks for checking out the blog and stay tuned for content diving into the round 2 match up between Toronto and Abbotsford.
In the meantime…go out and get tickets, and make the Marlies proud by showing your support: 416-597-Puck or marlies.ca for your opportunity at tickets. #rockthericoh!