Mar 31, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) carries the puck against the Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Sabres 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Marlies Down But Not Out, Zigomanis Back Tonight

Watching the first two games of this series, it became evident that the Marlies offense simply had no answer for the high-powered Norfolk Admirals.  Ben Scrivens played phenomenal, but faced an overwhelming 74 shots in the first two games.  The Marlies offense lacked any major threat at the other end, and the demoralization showed in their play.  That could all change with the return of the Marlies’ top scorer, Mike Zigomanis.

Zigomanis brings not only an improved offense, but a much needed element of leadership and physical play.  He also provides a significant faceoff advantage.  Zigomanis as a Maple Leaf in the NHL, led the team in the department.  Don Cherry has been calling out the Leaf management for years for not having Zigomanis in their lineup.  There is no question that this addition will act as an injection of adrenaline.  He is probably the most well-rounded player on the Marlies and the most intangible player on the roster.  At age 31, Zigomanis brings a leadership quality and scoring ability that the Marlies have lacked in the series thus far.

For Toronto to be an effective offense against Norfolk, the cycle game must be the gameplan.  In the first two games, the Admirals displayed superior speed and skating.  The best way to neutralize a quick and crafty team is to overpower them with physical play.  The Marlies have had no shortage of physicality in this series, but their depth has not allowed them to implement a gameplan effectively.  As the Marlies fell behind in consecutive games to open the Calder Cup Final, it became clear just how banged up the Marlies were.  With 3 of their best forwards on the injury list, the Marlies were most missing their game-breaking clutch goal scorer, Matt Frattin.  Frattin carried the heavy load through the post-season with the likes of Kadri, Zigomanis, and Mueller out with injuries.  But with his injury in the last minutes of the Conference Final, it seemed that the Marlies were overwhelmed by the fresh Admirals in the first two games of the Final.  But with the insertion of the top scorer into the lineup, it could help turn the tide in Toronto’s favour.

If you were giving up hope on the Marlies in this Calder Cup Final, you’d better reconsider.. starting tonight.  The Marlies are coming home for the next three games.  Toronto finished the regular season with the third best home record and have dominated at Ricoh Coliseum all playoffs.   The Marlies were likely going to back home with an edge anyways, but with Zigomanis back in the lineup tonight, Toronto will will have a physical edge as well as a psychological one.

Tune into either Sportsnet 1 or CBS Sports Network for Game 3 of the Calder Cup Final.  The Ricoh Coliseum will be rockin’ tonight.  The Marlies have the tougher team already, but with Zigomanis back, the Marlies will be rockin’ the Admirals tonight!

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