The Toronto Marlies have frittered away their margin of error.
Tonight the Marlies host the Manitoba Moose in Game 5 of the North Division quarter-final.
A 5-1 loss to the Moose in Game 4 shifted the theoretical home-ice advantage to the Manitoba side. The Marlies must win a game on the road. The series is tied 2-2.
The series shifts to Winnipeg for Games 6 and 7.
“We want to get this win tonight,” said forward Kyle Rogers. “We have to play our game and head West with a one-game advantage.”
The 2-3-2 format has played with the traditional rhythm of a best-of seven. It’s great for travel but the two home games at the tail end of the series mean a split of the first four puts the higher-seeded team in great shape to finish things.
That is if home-ice advantage is really just that. You’d be hard-pressed to make that argument. The Marlies fought their way into the post-season by beating the Moose in Winnipeg in the final two games of the year. The first four games of the playoffs have produced a split.
“It’s not an advantage if you don’t win,” said Marlies forward Tim Stapleton.
The issue isn’t so much about how the game is being played than where. The Marlies were responsible for a stream of turnovers and costly penalties at home on Tuesday. The visitors garnered seven power plays and three goals, including one penalty to defenceman Phil Oreskovic who was duped into a fighting major by Raymond Sawada. The miscue resulted in a goal.
“That was definitely undisciplined, a little bit selfish on my part,” said Oreskovic “I’m not supposed to show frustration. It was definitely a selfish play on my part but at the same time if there was any way I sent a message, hopefully I did that.”
The message the Marlies want to impart is that they can regain control of the series, even against the number one regular season team.
“We had a good opportunity to go up 3-1 and they took it to us,” Rogers said. “That’s what a number one team does but we’re capable of winning on the road.”
The key, it would seem would be a quick start. The team that opened the scoring has won all four games.
“There’s lots of momentum left in this series,” said Oreskovic. “We can build on the good things with a good start. We’ve got to get pucks deep and take the body. We’ve got to pound away all game.”
They had better to it without penalties. The Moose power play is clicking at 25 per cent. The Marlies rate is a more modest 14.29