Practice Update: Second Round Series A Showcase of Speed
For the second straight season, the Toronto Marlies will face off against the Syracuse Crunch in the North Division Finals series.
It’s a matchup that not only pits two of the league’s top teams against each other but a pair of teams that play similar styles and similar structures, with strong goaltending, defenders that jump into the rush and four lines upfront that play with speed and skill, creating a threat throughout the lineup.
“They are a team obviously with a lot of speed, a lot of skill, something I think we have as well. So you can kind of get used to it practicing throughout the year,” Vincent LoVerde said. “But they’re a team that’s going to come, they’re going to be hard on the forecheck, so you have to be ready for that.”
A key to coming out on top will be to execute the structure that made the Marlies successful all year and maintaining possession throughout, especially given the speed Syracuse plays with. In their first round matchup with Rochester, Syracuse combined for 18 goals in just three games, scoring six times in each outing.
“It’s going to be really important for us to have good structure, make sure we’re taking care of pucks and make sure we’re backtracking through the neutral zone,” said Justin Holl.
“I think our gaps have to be good, I think we have to do a good job getting pucks into the zone, chipping pucks out,” LoVerde agreed. “Most importantly, I just think we have to execute our systems well.”
“We’ve been a good defensive team all season long and it’s going to put us to the test here,” agreed head coach Sheldon Keefe. “But obviously we feel good about our group and what we can to do to counter that.”
One of the ways the Marlies will look to counter the Crunch attack is through Toronto’s own speed and using it as a weapon. From front to back, the Marlies lineup features strong skaters who can turn on the jets and create opportunities on the rush.
“We know the forwards are going to do a good job of keeping guys off us on the forecheck, getting skin on guys as we like to call it,” Dermott said. “So it’s just using our speed against theirs, when we get our speed going, our confidence going, we’re a pretty intimidating team.”
That team speed helped lead the Marlies to a division-best 254 goals in the regular season, which the Marlies will look to build off when facing a Syracuse team that allowed on average over three goals per game in the first round.
“We know we’re in for a tough series here, it’s a very good team and they play with speed on both sides of the puck and that makes it hard on you as a team,” said Keefe. “But we think the type of series we just went through is a good taste of what we’re going to be in for.”
As Garret Sparks agrees, it’s the type of opponent the Marlies have grown accustomed to facing.
“I’m expecting a competitive North Division team like we’re used to.”
Game 1 of the series goes Thursday night at Ricoh Coliseum and limited tickets are still available.
Fans can also tune in on Leafs Nation Network (TV) or online through AHL Live.
Learn more about the Marlies postseason in our Playoff Hub, with information on tickets, scheduling, contests, digital experiences and more.