Zigomanis gets lone goal in Game 4 loss
June 9: Marlies 1 vs. Norfolk 6
Forward lines:: Hamilton-Colborne-Ashton, Dupuis-Zigomanis-Deschamps, Acton-Scott-D’Amigo, Broll-Engel-Orr
Defence pairings: Lashoff-Gardiner, Fraser-Holzer, Mikus-Gysbers
Goaltenders: Scrivens (Loss 57:49 minutes played, 26 saves, 5 GA), Owuya (0:00), (empty net 1 GA)
Some of the Norfolk Admirals who paraded around the Ricoh Coliseum ice Saturday afternoon with the Calder Cup in hand may go on to have fruitful NHL careers. Some may be career minor-leaguers. In either case, it’s unlikely any of them as individuals will ever be compared to players on the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, a squad stacked with future Hall-of-Famers that lost only 8 out of 80 games in the regular season, then breezed their way to the Stanley Cup.
But as a collective unit, the Admirals dominated the 2011-12 AHL season in much the same way that Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, and Ken Dryden toyed with their opponents 45 years ago.
Their superiority was evident in a 6-1 pounding of the Toronto Marlies, completing a four-game sweep of the Calder Cup final. They were more opportunistic. They were more energized. They were more cohesive.
Norfolk was just the better team. It’s no discredit to Dallas’ Eakins squad, the Western Conference Champions. It’s simply the same acknowledgment that countless teams have had to make over centuries of sport. Just like the Pittsburgh Pirates had to admit when they – along with the rest of Major League Baseball – bowed to the 1927 New York Yankees.
Yes, the Admirals got a couple of breaks. Like when Richard Panik’s first period centering pass deflected off Marlies defenceman Juraj Mikus’ skate to open the scoring. Yes, Norfolk had the benefit of going up against a depleted Toronto squad that was missing Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri for the entire series.
But defenceman Mike Kostka proved that he didn’t need the benefit of a bad stanchion bounce or missed offside call to score, such as the case was with his Game 3 overtime winner. Kostka wired a pair of shots past Marlies goalie Ben Scrivens yesterday, finishing the playoffs with 6 goals. So what if one shouldn’t have counted?
The disproportionate amount of time that the play was spent in the Toronto end throughout the series was merely an indication of how the final result would turn out. Even if Frattin didn’t have his season end by crashing into the net while clinching the semi-final series against Oklahoma City, the Marlies weren’t going to beat the powerhouse Admirals. A team with no apparent weakness on any of the forward lines, defensive pairings, or in goal.
A team that won 44 of its last 47 games. A team that didn’t trail for a single second of play in their last 9 playoff games.
“That’s a team running on full cylinders,” said Eakins after the game. “They are an excellent team, and like the scouting reports that we got before, it’s not by accident that they’ve won all these games in a row. That is an excellent team that is skilled, they check well, and they’re healthy.”
David wasn’t going to beat Goliath, this time.
Going forward, the playoff experience earned by youngsters Frattin, Kadri, Scrivens, Joe Colborne and Jake Gardiner can only serve to better the foundation of the Leafs future. “That’s the hope,” said Eakins. “Not only is there an expectation with the Toronto Marlies, but now these players expect excellence every day. I think if you’re living your life that way, and your job is to excel, and you’re pushing the guys around you, it only rubs off.
“I don’t want our guys to tiptoe into camp. If the see a guy not pulling his weight next to him, then I think you’ve got to push him. Now, is somebody going to bark at a Dion Phaneuf or one of the top players? Maybe not. But there’s other ways to push NHL players, and I want my guys to do that.”
Throughout the entire Calder Cup playoffs Eakins praised his team for their resilience. The degree to which the Leafs best prospects learned from the experience will be seen when training camp starts in three months.
(Photo: Norfolk Admirals celebrate at centre ice)