With the Toronto Marlies’ 6-2 picking apart of the Texas Stars, they now return to Toronto with a chance to win their first ever Calder Cup. It isn’t quite the cup that the city desperately longs for, but it is a cup that has eluded the Marlies, despite them being consistently one of the top teams in the AHL for several years now.
The only remaining team in their way is the Texas Stars who managed to tie the series up 2-2 before falling at home last Saturday evening. So, what do the Marlies have to do to wrap the series in game 6?
First of all, they need to drastically improve their power play, which they’ve gone 1 for 12 in the series so far, that’s a measly 8%. Credit is definitely due here to the Texas Star’s PK unit which have done an incredible job of holding the Marlies at the blue line and not allowing them to set up whatsoever. It was particularly evident in game 5, where in the lone power play opportunity for Toronto, they didn’t register a shot on goal, whereas the Stars had several short-handed attempts. If it’s a tight game then failure to at least apply pressure on the power-play could be costly.
Secondly, Garret Sparks needs to be on his game. Which he certainly has been, excluding the goal fest in game 1 in which the final tally was 6-5 in Toronto’s favour. Since then he has put up a GAA of just 2.00. However, Mckenna has shown that he is equally capable of stopping the puck. Despite allowing 5 goals on 2 separate occasions, for the playoffs as a whole he is still at a highly respectable 0.927%. One goalie with a few bad mistakes can determine the result, as it did in game 5 where Toronto were able to build a quick lead and hold onto it.
Finally, the Marlies need to keep looking for the long stretch passes that have worked so well for him in series so far. Andreas Johnsson, the Maple Leafs’ 7th round pick in 2013, leads the Calder Cup playoffs with 20 points in just 14 games and he has been deadly when he gets breakaway opportunities. Trevor Moore has also made a name for himself, jumping from 0.49 points per game in the regular season to 0.89 in the post season, once again those stretch passes have really been working for him. Following game 5, it would be amiss for me to not also give the rookie, Calle Rosen a mention who managed to find space in the slot on two separate occasions on Saturday night and scored two beautiful goals from the opportunities. He now has 4 goals in the post season, equal to his total in the regular season. With a guy who is clearly on an up his teammates should be looking to getting the puck to him whenever they can.
So there we have it, strong special teams, strong goal tending and get the puck to the guys who are overflowing with confidence. If the Marlies follow these three simple points then they have a very good shot at securing their first ever Calder Cup in franchise history, giving the city of Toronto the first hockey parade since 1967.