The Milwaukee Admirals currently trail the Toronto Marlies 2-0 in the opening round best of five playoff match-up. A staggering figure in the series comes in the scorelines: 6-2 and 5-2. In each game the Admirals threw 30 shots on goal and were struggling to get high quality scoring chances.
Entering this series the strong point for the Admirals was their depth at the forward spot. They could roll-out all four lines feeling confident that they will have skilled two-way hockey shift after shift. After two games, the Marlies have out-muscled those lines and made life easy for former-Admiral netminder Drew MacIntyre.
In the regular season the Admirals didn’t face MacIntyre. There wasn’t a real feel for how he played against the Admirals or, more importantly, how the team rallied around him in net. During the regular season he won 29 games, had a 2.53 goals against average, a 0.917 save percentage, and one shutout.
I’m sure the question has been brought up. I’m sure the film has been dissected. How do you break down the Marlies defense and get pucks past MacIntyre? Other teams have this season. Let’s take a look.
(Date – Video Highlights // Score – Gamesheet)
Nov. 23, 2013 @ Texas: L, 5-3
Dec. 27. 2013 @Hamilton: L, 4-2
Jan. 3, 2014 vs. Syracuse: L, 6-3
Jan. 11, 2014 @ St. John’s: L, 5-4 (SO)
Jan. 30, 2014 @ Oklahoma City: L, 5-3
Feb. 1, 2014 @Texas: L, 6-0
Feb. 9, 2014 vs. Hamilton: L, 4-3
March 1, 2014 vs. Hamilton: L, 5-2
Mar. 30, 2014 vs. Abbotsford: W, 6-4
Apr. 16, 2014 @ Binghamton: W, 5-4
If I had any sort of “book” from these games it is this. (1) MacIntyre is always positioning himself to be low to the ice and compact (2) teams make the adjustment and aim high to the shoulders of MacIntyre (3) opponents utilize the slot area off the puck to create traffic for deflections or screens (4) speed cutting in or across the slot can cause MacIntyre to lose his angle and leave space against the grain.
All of those bullet points have been nearly impossible for the Admirals forwards to create because the Marlies have boxed out the shot and forced them to play the walls and far points. As I said above – they are getting completely out-muscled – and the are expecially getting beaten up when it comes to earning the dirty area in front of the net. The Marlies defensive structure, right in and around MacIntyre’s cage, has been next to unbreakable in this playoff series.
For the Admirals to head up to Toronto and pull off a little playoff magic they’re going to have to earn the areas around the net. They need to get MacIntyre’s vision disrupted so he goes to his “safe mode” and hits a low and square stance in net. The net can be opened up and the Admirals can get those quality scoring chances if they out-battle Toronto in front of the net. It’s where this series has been lost so far – but it is also where it can be changed on its head should the Admirals flip the script in the dirty areas.
How do you think the Admirals offense has looked in this series? In your opinion – what needs to be done to get the offense back in gear? Is it possible for them to rally on the road in Toronto?