Marlies win, Marlies win !!!
Game 1 in the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs is over, and a massive win on the road for the Toronto Marlies versus the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The final score in the game was 4-1, but the damage was done with a relentless effort in the 2nd period by the visiting team. During that second stanza the Marlies put 15 shots on rookie goalie, Stephon Williams, scoring four times and providing the ultimate pushback, after being out chanced and out hustled in the first period.
The big guns for the Marlies came out to play, with T.J. Brennan opening the scoring early in that second frame, redirecting a point shot from Connor Carrick on the powerplay. Brennan, the AHL’s Top Defenseman again this year, continues to show his offensive brilliance and is one of the true leaders of this Marlies team.
With the game tied at one, William Nylander ripped a wrist shot from just inside the blueline (yes it travelled thru 3 time zones to get to the net) passed Williams to give the Marlies their first lead of the night and would prove to be the game winning goal. There was a massive screen in front of the Sound Tigers net, but the velocity of the shot from that distance had many people in awe of that goal. Nylander continues to impress staff and fans alike, and in the process continues to raise the bar when it comes to expectations on this young Swede.
Nearing the end of the period, Nikita Soshnikov scored while streaking down the right side of the ice to extend the lead to two goals. Soshnikov, the feisty winger, was moved up to the top line by Coach Sheldon Keefe in an attempt to give that group a spark and it clearly worked. As I have stated all season, Soshnikov is the type of guy who can play in any situation, and in any role while helping the team and his line succeed.
With the Sound Tigers clearly reeling from that third Marlies goal, they were caught sleeping and looking forward to the intermission when Connon Brown took advantage of that lapse when he scored with just .3 seconds remaining on the clock. The Marlies had an impressive 4-1 lead heading into the third period, but a not so distant memory of mine seems to hate that score.
In somewhat of a surprise, the Marlies went with Antoine Bibeau to start this game on the road. With Coach Keefe praising both of his starters last week during a postgame scrum, it sounded like he was going to lean on Garret Sparks to carry the load during these playoffs. Not only did Bibeau start, be he played very well in stopping 31 of 32 shots that he faced.
Bibeau was also named the second star of the game, and continues to impress many around the team in a variety of areas. Mentioned previously, Bibeau challenges shooters very well and is constantly on the edge of his blue paint. The young goalie, is also square to all shooters (even on cross ice feeds that have him moving) and this helps him absorb the puck and not allow any rebounds to squirt free. A newfound addition to his skillset was something he has been working on, but had not perfected until the Leafs traded for Alex Stalock in the James Reimer trade with San Jose. Not much is mentioned on this subject but in his time with the Marlies, Stalock gave Bibeau a few tips and tricks on how to more comfortably and effectively distribute the puck. Those skills have the Marlies D-men very thankful as it can negate the forecheck (less wear on the D from hits) and it starts the transition game, which with the Marlies team speed is a deadly combination. That aspect of his game should be interesting to follow as the playoffs and his career progress.
There you have it. Game 1 in the books, and the Marlies and Sound Tigers get back after it at 5pm today in Bridgeport.
Let’s GO MARLIES !!