May 02 2014 08:45PM
As you've probably heard, the Toronto Marlies knocked the Milwaukee Admirals in a swift and timely fashion, opting to prevent the series from even reaching the beginning of the weekend. I expected it to be a much closer series, but this team has been very good at defying expectation all year. Just for laughs, though, I decided to compare my series preview to what actually happened.
Drew Macintyre needs to have a big series. He's been very dependable for this team over the course of the year, and the Admirals have the challenge of not having faced him yet, but he still needs to make it count. This team tends to get outshot, and if you don't have a goaltender to keep you in, that ends poorly (ask the Leafs). They could probably trust Gibson or Sparks, but at the same time, putting them in to find out typically comes after a loss, which you can't afford in a best of 5.
This totally happened. MacIntyre seemed to improve on a game by game basis. culminating in a 29 save shutout on Thursday. The end result was a 0.955 save percentage on 90 shots against. Garret Sparks' playing time was limited to playing with his hair (his words), and they had the exact type of goaltending you would hope for when outshot twice.
While by no means am I suggesting to rush guys back on the ice, the Marlies could use some guys that are on the IR. Peter Holland and Carter Ashton are due back soon. Spencer Abbott seems to still be a bit away with his shoulder injury. Andrew MacWilliam is still recovering from a concussion. These are all very good players on this team, and as such, would be of use right now.
They didn't need any of these guys in game two, but Ashton and MacWilliam returned in Game 3 and seemed to make a difference. MacWilliam in particular had a big hit in the second period which threw Milwaukee's players off their game, and would good at cutting off plays sooner than later. Both Holland and Abbott will be back for the start of Round 2, and will no doubt be key cogs for those games.
Brandon Kozun needs to keep playing the way he has. I initially described him as "Bonus Abbott" in terms of his ability helping generate secondary scoring from the wing, but for now, he needs to flat out be that top winger. He's been doing the right things, but pucks aren't going in. This would be a good time for averages to even out.
Kozun continued to play "his game", and the averages treated him well. He had two goals and an assist during game two, snapping his drought. They were his only points of the series, but were ultimately the difference in winning his team the game. He also had six shots in the series and was a +3.
If the two games this year are any indication, how this team reacts to Michael Liambas could mean a lot. If they can get some of their pestier guys to distract him, they're in very good shape. If they let him become a distraction, it's going to lead to penalties, powerplays, and powerplay goals against fast. I'd consider putting Brad Ross in tomorrow with the main goal being to annoy as many people as possible.
Ross played in all three games, and while he only took three shots and didn't really effect the score sheet, he definitely made his presence known, throwing the body and talking back at Milwaukee's players. Liambas, on the other hand, was scratched for game one, and left pretty ineffective in games two and three. Nobody played into him.
Lastly, this team should be going in without internal pressure. The players and staff have talked about two things lately; exceeding expectations and a fun, encouraging environment. When expectations are low, you can be more relaxed and just focus on playing hockey. That's part of how such an inexperienced group got this far; they simply don't know any better at this level. That's a good trait to have come playoff time - relaxed decisions will generally work out better than the panicked ones.
This is kind of internal, so it's hard to say. I have to imagine they're enjoying this, though.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com