(TORONTO) -- It was that famous sports provocateur Bob Dylan who first wrote that when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.
That lyric fits the Toronto Marlies who go into tonight’s Western Conference Final best of seven against the Chicago Wolves down 3-0. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Ricoh.
After a 52-win-season and seven-game series wins over San Antonio and Syracuse, the Marlies find themselves playing another elimination game. Down two games is nothing new; down 3-0 with two goals for in three games has a menacing ring to it. Especially when your opponent went to the third round last year and returned 15 vets for this year’s run.
So when you’ve got nothing….
“It’s not just do or die, it’s just do,” said Brent Aubin. “We were down against Syracuse too. We just need to play desperate.”
And smart. Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Wolves was gained on four power play goals in 10 opportunities. The Marlies power play hasn’t produced a goal in 17 advantages over three games. In the same three games, the Wolves have racked up 25 opportunities and six goals and therein lies the difference.
“We took too many stick infractions and it has cost us hockey games,” said Marlies coach Greg Gilbert, “but tonight’s a new challenge. There’s really only one way to go.”
“Chicago’s a great team but this is a challenge that every hockey player has to rise to at some point of their career,” said Marlies defenceman Jaime Sifers. “There’s nobody else I would rather rise to the challenge with than the guys who we have on the ice.”
Part of the Wolves special teams dominance can be traced to the unorthodox tactics of Wolves coach John Anderson. The one-time Maple Leaf segregates his penalty killing and power play teams. While Jason Krog can be counted upon to see time on both units, the shorthanded unit is mainly comprised of Steve Martins, Boris Valabik, Kevin Doell, Colin Stuart and Nathan Osystrick mainly. The power play is built around Darren Haydar, Krog, Jordan LaVallee. That means that on the tail end of either a penalty for or against, Anderson has fresh legs and a vigorous, engaged bench.
Anderson said the Wolves would not look past the Marlies which probably would come as bad news to the Marlies. The Marlies have yet to solve Wolves goalie Ondrej Pavelec to any degree. Pavelec is carrying a 1.98 goals against average and a 0.934 save percentage into the contest.
“Just given their background, we know how well they’ve played under pressure,” Anderson said. “We know they’re not done.”
“Our guys were watching the other series the Marlies were in. They can read. Our concern is still there and we want to stay with the same things we’ve been doing and don’t give them opportunities.”