Nov 15, 2011; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens (30) is pushed into the net as center Mikhail Grabovski (84) falls against the Phoenix Coyotes at the Air Canada Centre. The Coyotes beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 in the shootout. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Marlies Fall In Calder Cup Opener, Look to Rebound Tonight

March 15, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Carter Ashton (37) during the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

If ever the Marlies did appear weak throughout their playoff run, it always seemed that Matt Frattin came through in the clutch.  Now that he is gone for the series, what will become of Toronto’s Calder Cup campaign?  Last night proved that the Frattin-less Marlies will be in tough against one of the best professional teams in hockey.

Let’s not forget that our list of casualties goes far beyond Matt Frattin.  Carter Ashton made a surprising appearance last night, and scored Toronto’s lone goal, but other injuries on the front end include: Nazem Kadri, Marcel Mueller, and Mike Zigomanis.  Let us also not forget that the Norfolk Admirals are already the most dangerous opponent without any Marlie injuries.

It seemed when Conacher opened the scoring at the tail end of the first period, that a sense of panic set into the Marlie bench.  They were completely dominated throughout the first 40 minutes of play.  The Admirals were controlling the course of play no matter what line they threw out.  Despite being given 8 powerplays in the opening two frames, the Marlies were unable to penetrate the Norfolk wall of defense.  An incident occurred late in the second period.  Marlies forward Jerry D’Amigo was viciously elbowed to head.  It should have warranted five minutes and a game misconduct from Admirals top scorer Alexandre Picard, but he was only given a minor penalty and nothing more.  This could have been a major turning point as emotions flared.  A five minute powerplay could have proven to be a game-changer, as the Marlies failed to register a shot on the ensuing minor powerplay.

All hope seemed to be lost until the opening five minutes of the third period.  The Marlies woke up and were rewarded when Carter Ashton, former Admiral, squeezed a wrist shot through Dustin Tokarski.  Defensemen tandem Jake Gardiner and Matt Lashoff pushed the pace the rest of the way, but it was to no avail.  Two more powerplays, including one in the last two minutes of regulation with the goaltender out, the Marlies simply could not buy a goal.  Matt Frattin’s absence stuck out like a sore thumb for the entire game.  The absence of a game-changer can never be overlooked, especially in the dying minutes when you need that certain player to net that big goal.  The Admirals scored on an empty net to seal the deal, 3-1.  They take a 1-0 series lead into Game 2.

All in all, it was a fantastic playoff game.  Unlike the NHL Final, where there seemed to be a lack of hatred, this game was full of fiery exchanges.  Scrum after scrum, crashing the net, and a ton of nasty trash talk.  A fight finally broke out in the third period, conveniently just as the storms in Norfolk momentarily knocked out the television feed.  But the game was a great one to watch for those who like the rough stuff!

The Marlies look to get right back in the series tonight at 7:15 ET in Norfolk before heading back to Toronto for next three games, if necessary.  Can’t hurt to flip back between the NHL Final and AHL Final, it is fantastic hockey.  I got chills watching Game 1.. it reminded me of those early 90’s games I have on tape.

The NHL Final seemed to lack excitement in its long-awaited opener.  If it is as such tonight and you feel bored watching it, flip over to Leafs TV and catch this great game.  If you’re one for old time hockey, you’re not going to want to miss another moment of this battle of the best in the American Hockey League!

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