AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-1-12 Marlies at Admirals Game One
Stat of the night: the winner of Game One in the Calder Cup Finals has gone on to hoist the championship 74.9% of the time.
Norfolk Leads the Series 1-0
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 24 shots for the victory. He came within an eyelash of setting an all-time AHL playoff shutout streak record. Norfolk's playing a championship brand of defense right now. They're not allowing a lot of chances and the few times they do, they're getting the timely save from Tic. If they keep playing defense like they have since they tightened up at the end of the Connecticut series in the Eastern Semis, it's hard to imagine they can lose a 7 game series.
NOR Conacher, (2) (Johnson, Oberg), 12:21
NOR Johnson, (4) (Barberio, Conacher), 10:03 (PP)
TOR Ashton, (1) (Scott, Gardiner), 3:57
NOR Segal, (4) (Smith, Gudas), 19:31 (EN)
Cory Conacher and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars. When the chips are down, you need your best players to be your best players. Conacher was the best player in the league the first half of the AHL regular season and TJ was probably the best in the second half, but neither has really had a dominant playoffs. Tonight they stepped up at the time when they were needed to put their club over the top.
Looking deeper into the box score there's some interesting nuggets to consider going into Game Two. Norfolk outshot Toronto a very impressive 42-24 in the game, as Toronto struggled with the speed and tenacity that have really been the cornerstones of Norfolk's game this year. But, Norfolk allowed Toronto 10 power plays to the Admirals' 5, which is unacceptable. Then again, that kind of puts the quality of Norfolk's night defensively into even better perspective. If you allow an 10-5 PP disparity and still outshoot your opponents 42-24, that says something.
I suspect Norfolk wanted to set a tone with the machismo tonight against a Brian Burke led Toronto organization that prides themselves on being able to bloody their opponents' noses. Norfolk does have some guys on their roster who are speedsters who are on the slight side, and an uninformed scouting report might say to try to push them around. This Admirals team has relished the physical challenge all year, though. They don't care if the Marlies have Don Cherry's endorsement, and while they do have a few guys who are small speedsters with skill, it would be incredibly foolish to think they can't handle their business when called upon. They've got jam in every flavor. Norfolk probably got a little overzealous in that respect, though, and I suspect that, with the point proven, Jon Cooper's going to reel his boys in. Tomorrow night's going to be a huge game for Norfolk, because you want to head into Toronto with the luxury of really only having to win 1 of 3 in Toronto before, if necessary, going back to Scope for Game Six and Game Seven. They can make their lives a lot easier and go a long way toward finishing the drill, overall, by focusing in and getting this big Game Two "W" tomorrow night.
Box score from TheAHL.com.