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Marlies On The Ropes For Game 6

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
There are certain sentences that presage trouble.

“I don’t think it’s loaded.”

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

“The boss can only say no.”

The same goes for hockey.

“We just have to keep on putting shots at the net.”

“We are letting him see the puck. We have to put bodies in front.”

These utterances come from a team that is being killed by goaltending and yes, they are awfully similar, if not identical statements to the ones being mouthed by the Toronto Marlies these days.

If the Marlies are to win their first round series, let alone extend matters past Saturday’s Game 6, they will need to solve a red-headed goalie presently locked out of the NHL by Roberto Luongo.

Cory Schneider has been poison to the Marlies. The 23-year-old is giving up just under two goals a game this postseason. His save percentage is .932 and in the first period in Game 4 and the first two frames of Game 5, he stopped and disheartened the Marlies as a matter of course.

“Schneider played a hell of a game,” Marlies goalie Justin Pogge said Thursday night. “If he doesn’t play as well (in the second period) we’re ahead in the game.”

Pogge is absolutely right. The fact that he has been outplayed so far by Schneider, a native of Salem, Mass., who played his college hockey at Boston College, isn’t really an indictment of the Toronto goalie.

Pogge has been frequently betrayed by faulty defense. In Game 4, the Marlies treated the front of their net like a drive-through turnover zone. In Game 5, the Marlies were tied 2-2 before Jonas Frogren was stripped of the puck for a wraparound goal by Jason Jaffray.

Pogge hasn’t matched Schneider. The Marlie netminder’s goals against is 3.15. His save percentage is an uninspiring .901. You get the idea.

Who knows? Schneider may go in the tank although there really isn’t a whole lot of evidence that he will. He won the American League’s Baz Baztien award as the top netminder in the league. He is steadfast and unshakable in the crease.

Which means that Pogge, abetted by better defensive play, will have to meet him on the mountaintop. After the Jaffray goal, a puck shot from the corner somehow made its way past Pogge. It was just the type of crushing goal the Marlies can no longer afford.

The Marlies are getting some strong performances. Jaime Sifers, Alex Foster, Bates Battaglia and Darryl Boyce. Inserted into the lineup for the first time, Viktor Stalberg displayed remarkable skating and offensive skills.

If necessary, Game 7 will be played, Tuesday in Winnipeg.

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