The Toronto Marlies take to the ice tonight at 7:30 ET as they pursue their first ever Calder Cup. The Marlies have been steamrolling through the Western Conference, but the word `steamrolling` doesn’t near illustrate what their Calder Cup opponents have been doing in the East.
The Norfolk Admirals have been often compared as an NHL team playing in the AHL. It’s as if this epic Calder Cup Final has been scripted out of Hollywood. I am reminded of the movie ‘Friday Night Lights’, where the Permian Panthers slew their way to the Championship Game, only to meet the greatest high school football team ever assembled.
Similarly, the Norfolk Admirals have to go down as one of the best AHL teams ever assembled. Here is a team that took a 28 game winning streak into the playoffs, the longest in professional hockey. In the playoffs though, they appeared more down to earth, most notably in the Eastern Semi-Final against Connecticut. They went a tight 6 games, twice going to overtime. However they prevailed, and just when you thought they might be weak, the Admirals dominated their way to the Eastern title by sweeping St. John’s four games to nothing. Norfolk appears to be on fire again and will pose a major threat to an outstanding Marlies season.
In the other corner, the Toronto Marlies, who have been completely dominating the entire playoffs. Walking through their divisional rival Rochester Americans in a sweep, defeating the Abbotsford Heat in just five games, then finally knocking off the top team in the West, Oklahoma City Barons in five games. However, injuries throughout the campaign are beginning to take their toll. We are now without Frattin for the series. Carter Ashton, Mike Zigomanis, and Marcel Mueller are all hopefuls for a Calder Cup appearance, but are all out indefinitely. Nazem Kadri`s situation is still unknown. But Frattin is the biggest loss, as the team leader in scoring, it will be a tough task for a depleted forward lineup to deal with. Especially when they will open the series in Norfolk. This opening game tonight could tell the tale of the rest of the series. With all the injuries, if they don`t start getting some of those players back, the Marlies could be in deep trouble. As if Ben Scrivens wasn`t carrying the team already..
With the Admirals heating up at the right time and the Marlies beginning to deplete at the wrong time, this could be a perfect storm that the Marlies might meet face to face. Game 1 becomes enormous for the Marlies. Ben Scrivens will have to be elite. He has been out-shot in just about every other game in these playoffs and can only expect that margin to increase. Though their opponents were tough along the way, none compare to the team that holds the longest win streak in professional hockey history.
The puck drops at 7:30 ET tonight between the two best teams in the AHL throughout the 2012 season. This is the Battle of the Best, the Clash of the Titans in the American Hockey League. Hey, the NHL isn`t on tonight, get your dose of great professional hockey tonight by watching Game1 of this great series!