TORONTO– Dallas Eakins never would have believed his team would suffer their worst post-season loss in fran
chise history after the way they started Game 1 against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
“I loved the way we came out stompin’,” said Eakins. “It was exactly how we wanted to start.”
The Toronto Marlies came out physical on Friday and dominated the first few shifts of the opening period. They started with the first seven shots on goal and two scoring chances which were turned away by Griffins’ goaltender Petr Mrazek. However, breakdowns in the defensive zone from face-offs losses led to a two–goal deficit before eventually dropping a 7-0 decision.
Most defensive zone face-offs this season have been taken by veteran Mike Zigomanis, but it was rookies Sam Carrick and Greg McKegg who lost back-to-back draws which led to two goals in 34 seconds and a 2-0 Griffins lead by the 9:29 mark.
“I think it was disheartening to our group,” said Eakins. “We lose two face-offs basically in a row and they both end up in our net. I think that took a lot of wind out of our sails and we couldn’t recover.”
Eakins admitted his club had to “open up” offensively and take some gambles to get back in the game, but solid netminding by Mrazek and two more Griffins goals in the second period left Toronto down four goals after 40 minutes of action.
The assault was already on when the Marlies started taking penalties that took away any chance of making the game respectable. McKegg ended the second period with a goaltender interference call and a Jerry D’Amigo slash put the club down two men a minute into the third period. Despite killing off 41 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey, two more consecutive minors from Paul Ranger and David Broll led to Toronto giving up its second power-play goal of the game.
“Those are tough,” Eakins said about the calls. “You’re down like that, a couple frustration penalties, maybe trying to get even. But on a night when things aren’t going your way it’s not good to take those penalties.”
The Griffins went up 6-0 at the 5:48 mark, which led to Drew MacIntyre being pulled for the first time in a Marlies uniform.
The veteran goaltender gave up six goals on 28 shots after allowing only five goals on 98 shots in a three-game sweep of the Rochester Americans in the first round.
“I was really bad, I was horrible, I did a lot of bad things, but I’ll be fine,” MacIntyre said about his performance.
“(He’s) a veteran guy. I can tell you right now Drew Macintyre is not affected by what happened,” said Eakins.
Garret Sparks replaced MacIntyre and allowed the seventh goal with less than four minutes to play.
The Marlies don’t have much time to dwell on their performance as Game 2 goes Saturday at 3pm. Playing again with little time in between games is a good thing to Eakins.
“I like the quick turnaround,” he said. It’s the best way to jump right back in it. We start even again and I hope we can have the same start. Other than those two face-offs we lost I think it was the best first period we played in the playoffs.”
Toronto finished the night 0 for 5 on the power play while Grand Rapids went 2 for 7. Mrazek turned aside 25 shots for the shutout.
“The common denominator is the same every time. Go to the net, inches from the crease, be ready and make the best of you chance,” Eakins said about how his team will go about finding their offence.
Tomas Tatar led the Griffins with two goals and an assist while Chad Billins scored once and set up two others.
With a chance to tie the second-round series at a game each, Eakins doesn’t care how bad Friday’s franchise-worst defeat was.
“Doesn’t matter if you lose 7-0 or in four overtimes, it’s a knock down. We will just prepare for the next day”
Eakins said there would “absolutely” be changes to his lineup on Saturday, but declined to mention who.